Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said Sunday he is still processing an incident at what had been a peaceful memorial march honouring the memory of Chantel Moore, a 25-year-old Indigenous woman shot to death in New Brunswick last year.
The chief had been invited to speak Saturday at the memorial by Moore’s mother, Martha Martin, and had been honoured in a blanketing ceremony according to Indigenous custom. As Manak, who was not in uniform, stood chatting in the crowd, a woman approached him from behind and poured liquid down his back. He was not injured.
The woman walked away and as officers moved in to arrest her, her supporters started challenging police. Five people were taken into custody during a long, loud struggle.
“Still processing what happened. This cowardly incident won’t define me or our @vicpdcanada officers,” Manak posted on Twitter.
“Grateful to Chantel Moore’s family for jumping to my defence, to our community for their outpouring of love & support & to the brave and dedicated #VicPD officers who shine 24/7.”
Moore’s family quickly distanced themselves from the people who had been arrested. Martin called the assault the chief “terrible and unacceptable.”
On Sunday, family released a statement via YouTube:
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, co-chairs of the police board, also called the incident “unacceptable.”
“We are upset and saddened by this act,” they said in a statement Saturday night. “We recognize that there is a long history of mistrust between police in Canada and Indigenous communities. We know that there is a lot of healing to do. That is precisely why the Chief was invited by Moore’s family to participate in the memorial; he has been working closely with them since her death and they immediately and publicly denounced this act of violence against the Chief Manak.”
After the arrests, protesters sat down in the middle of the road outside police headquarters. Traffic was disrupted on Vancouver and Quadra for several hours. The five people arrested in connection with the incident were later released from custody on a promise to appear.
Helps and Desjardins stressed that for the past few years, Victoria police have been working closely with local Indigenous communities to rebuild trust and understanding.
“This has happened through anti-stigma training from Indigenous youth, participation in events and ceremonies with the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness and other learning opportunities,” said their statement.
“We call on everyone in the community to stand down from attacks and to express differences of opinion respectfully and in a way that will help to build understanding and allow much needed-healing to happen.”